Life at the Orphanage was not as good as Aiden had imagined and hoped.
At 7 p.m. as instructed, he went for dinner at the dining hall. He saw many kids lining at the food counter. The other kids looked at him and started murmuring among themselves. Aiden was already very shy and he felt more awkward now. He joined the queue at the food counter and tried to talk to the boy who was standing at the end of the queue, but the boy just ignored him. Aiden was embarrassed. He just quietly stood in the queue and took the plates as the other kids.
When it was his turn, the guy who was serving asked him ”Are you new here? ”
Aiden nodded and left taking his food and looked around for a place to sit. He couldn bear the stares he received so he sat at a corner alone. The food looked really good, far better than what Aiden ate at his house. There was Bacon and Broccoli rice bowl along with some vegetable salad. He got a small serving of chocolate pudding as well. Aiden tasted the food and it was delicious. Instantly, his mood improved and he devoured his food since he hadn eaten anything from morning.
Once the food was done, Aiden saw few kids keeping their used plates at a counter. He followed them and kept his used plate there and went to drink water. He saw a group of children giggling looking at him.
As Aiden was drinking water he heard one of the boys say ” Did you look at the way he was eating? It looked like he never had any food in his life. ”
Aiden was not sure whether they were talking about him, but the words he heard next proved otherwise. He heard a girl say ” I think he has never had good food before. When its stolen food, you have to make do with whatever is easily available. ”
The water Aiden was drinking seemed to be stuck in his throat. He dared to peek a glance at the group of giggling kids and they were now shamelessly gawking at him. His suspicions were confirmed that they were indeed talking about him. He was so embarrassed, he just left the dining hall and ran towards his room. Before leaving, he could hear the kids laughter which echoed through the dining hall.
As Aiden rushed back to his room, he saw a boy already sitting on the other bed. Aiden thought this guy must be Dean. Aiden forced a smile at him and stuttered ” Hiii… I..I…I a…a…am Aiden, Youuu must be Dean.
Dean just gave him a disgusting look and asked ” You are the thief? ”
Aiden was shocked at his words. He reluctantly asked, ” W…w…what do you m…m…m…mean? ”
Dean scoffed and replied ” I know all about you. The Pranks Gang heard the Police Officer talking to Madam Cecilia. He was saying your parents were thief and drug addicts and so they were arrested. Were you also involved in stealing with your parents? ”
Aiden was on the verge of tears at the accusation. He barely managed to say ” I…I…I…I a..a.am not a thief. ”
” We will know that soon, but I am warning you, if you try to steal any of my stuff, I won spare you ” threatened Dean. He then got up and went inside the bathroom.
Aiden couldn stop the tears from flowing now. The kids already knew about his background. They also thought he was a thief like his parents. His wish to make friends crumbled even before he could give it a try. He laid down on his bed, hid under the blanket and cried himself to sleep.
The next day, Aiden was called to Madam Cecilias office. Officer Bruce had got his things from his house. There was nothing much, just a few clothes, shoes and books. Bruce wished him good luck and left.
Mrs. Cecelia then had her chance and asked Aiden to sit down. He was a bit intimidated by her tone now which seemed different from how it was the previous day.
Mrs. Cecilia got up from her seat and said sternly ” I have heard all the stories about your parents, who and what they were, so I don expect a good upbringing from them. But, I will make one thing clear to you, whatever you did in the past does not matter anymore. In this orphanage, you have to live according to my rules and I do not tolerate any kind of insolence or mischiefs from any of the kids. You will be punished if you do not follow the rules and, by any chance, if I hear that you are stealing and robbing in my orphanage then you would be sorry. ”
Aiden was shocked at Mrs. Cecilias sudden change of attitude. He jumped up in fear when he heard Madam Cecilia say ” Do I make myself clear boy? ”
Aiden couldn muster up the strength to speak and just nodded his head.
Mrs. Cecilia then sat down and said ” Your admission has been done at a school nearby and you will be starting from tomorrow. Also, many parents will be coming here regularly to adopt the kids. You have to be at your best behavior in front of the parents if you want to get adopted to a good family. Also, I maintain a logbook wherein I note down the good and bad deeds of each kid. The parents often refer to these logbooks to decide whether they have to adopt a child or not as many parents prefer smart kids. ” She then calls John to come to her office.
John enters the office and Mrs. Cecilia instructs him to take Aiden away and explain the rules.
John takes Aiden to his room and says ” There are a few rules which every child here has to follow. First of all, you must wake up at 6 a.m., take bath and get ready for school. Breakfast will be served at 7 and after that, you leave for school. After you are back from school you will have to first finish your HW and if you complete it soon you will get two hours of free time to play or watch TV. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. You must sleep at 8 p.m. and no one is allowed to go out of their rooms after 8 p.m. Remember to always follow the above schedule and maintain discipline and no fighting with the other kids. See to it you adhere to these rules or else you will be punished. ” John was a no-nonsense guy who always spoke to the point. Citing the rules he simply left the room without even giving Aiden a chance to speak.
Aiden was the type who was scared of punishments. Being a child who was constantly abused by his parents, he was adamant about avoiding the punishments at any costs. So he recited the rules again and again in his mind.
The next morning, Aiden woke up at 6 a.m. and got ready for school. He had his breakfast and left for school on the school bus with the other kids.
Aidens experience at school was nothing better compared to his orphanage. He had hoped to at least make friends at school, but most of the students were from the orphanage itself who had already briefed the other students on Aidens ”supposed ” background. So, as a result, Aiden was a target of disgust and hatred from students and teachers alike. He soon realized he was better off being alone and avoided others just to stay out of trouble. His biggest fear was getting abused and bullied by others. He tried to stay invisible and immersed all his time in his studies. Aiden was content being on his own in the orphanage and at the school. Even though he was alone and had to be constantly ridiculed by others, it was manageable.
It went on like that for a few weeks. Aiden fell into a routine. Wake up on time, have breakfast, go to school and once back get immersed in his books. He preferred to stay in his room even in his break time so that he can avoid facing the others. He always wanted to play in the playground but not at the cost of being bullied by others.
Blame it on Aidens rotten luck, he was soon accused by one of the kids at the orphanage for stealing his toy car. As Aiden was getting back from his dinner one evening, he was stopped by Brett and his gang. Brett and the gang were known as the Pranks Gang around the orphanage. They liked to often play pranks on the other kids as well as the caretakers.
Brett grabbed Aidens collar angrily and sneered ” You thief, Why did you steal my toy car? ”
Aiden was shocked at the sudden assault and stuttered in fear ” W..w..what are you saying? I…I…I didn steal anything. ”
” Don lie to me. Give me my toy car back now ” roared Brett. By now all the other kids had gathered around to watch the scene unfold.
Aiden was scared and tried to get away from Bretts tight grip but failed. He was on the verge of tears and whispered ” I..I..I didn steal anything. ”
Brett raised his hand to punch Aiden when he was stopped by Madam Cecilia who had come to the dining hall.
”What is happening here? Leave the boy now ” sneered Madam Cecilia.
Brett immediately left Aidens collar and said ” Mam, this boy stole my toy car ”.
Mrs. Cecilia raised her eyebrow and stared at Aiden and asked ” Is it, true boy? Did you steal his toy? ”
Aiden stuttered ” I…I…I dddin sssteal his toy, Mam. ”
Brett scoffed and was about to attack Aiden again but Madam Cecilia roared ” Stop it, Brett. Don you dare to fight in front of me. Let me handle this. ”
She then turned to Aiden and said ” If you are telling the truth then you should have no problem in having your belongings checked. ”
Before Aiden could say anything, Mrs. Cecilia called for John and asked him to search Aidens room. Mrs. Cecilia, Aiden, Brett and his friends followed John to Aidens room. John entered room no. 5 and started searching Aidens closet. He didn find the toy there. Then he checked Aidens study table and inside the drawer was a red color toy car. John took it out and asked Brett whether it was his toy. Brett nodded and took the car from John and glared at Aiden. Brett wanted to hit Aiden but stopped himself once he remembered Madam Cecilia being present there.
Aiden couldn understand how the toy car was found in his drawer. He looked desperately from Brett to Madam Cecilia and said ” I…I…I really don kkkknow how the car came to be in my drawer, bbbut I..I..I ddddin ssssteal it. ”
”I knew you are a thief, the police should have arrested you along with your parents ” scoffed Brett angrily.
Aiden whimpered at Bretts loud tone and tears started flowing from his eyes. He wanted to explain himself but didn know-how. He knew no one would believe him even if he tried. They had already started blaming him as soon they knew about his parents, and now when the toy was found in his drawer, they would surely blame him. He thought who hated him so much to frame him by keeping the toy in his drawer.
On the other hand, Mrs. Cecilia who wanted complete order and discipline in her orphanage was enraged at this incident. It was merely a few weeks this small boy had come to her orphanage and he had already started stealing from other kids. She had to teach him a lesson so that he does not repeat this mistake.
Madam Cecilia looked at Brett and said ” You got your toy back, you can leave now ”.
She then looked at the kids who were gathered and said ” All of them go to your rooms now. ”
The kids started leaving and Madam Cecilia told Aiden ” You, follow me. ”
Aiden was very scared and reluctantly followed Madam Cecilia. The other kids headed to their respective rooms gossiping about Aiden. He could clearly make out hief, shameless, pathetic and many other such offensive words being thrown at him. The kids had mixed reactions. Few were shocked and appalled, few disgusted and few happy at Aidens misery. The happiest was Dean because he had managed to so easily escape from this situation. Actually, Dean was the one who had stolen Bretts toy car. Brett and his gang had pranked on him the previous day, so Dean wanted to get back at them. He stole Bretts favorite toy and hid it in his closet. As Brett saw his toy was missing his friends suggested the thief must be Aiden. So, after Brett openly confronted Aiden in the dining hall, Dean was scared he will be caught so he ran into his room and hid the toy in Aidens drawer.
Aiden followed Madam Cecilia to her office. She seemed very angry and Aiden was expecting the worst.
Madam Cecilia sat on her chair and stared at Aiden. She sneered ” Hadn I told you about the rules earlier. I had warned you boy, but you still dare to steal at my orphanage. ” She said the last words so loudly that Aiden was frozen in fear. He didn dare to utter a word due to fear of getting beaten. He wanted to say that he didn steal the toy but he couldn muster up the strength to say anything.
” You will be punished for this boy. I won let you off so easily ” continued Madam Cecilia. She said ” You will have no breakfast and dinner tomorrow. You can have your lunch at school. Also, you will be cleaning the entire dining room for next week, alone by yourself. It should be done properly, I will personally inspect your work and if it is not clean then you have to do it again. ”
Aiden just nodded his head vigorously and agreed to whatever Madam Cecilia said. He was already used to household work while staying with his parents and skipping meals was a regular occurrence there, so this punishment did not seem that bad. He was thankful to God he did not receive any beatings.
Madam Cecilia then told Aiden to get out of her room but not before warning him again. Aiden rushed out of the office and ran back to his room.
The following week for Aiden was nothing but trouble. Previously there were at least a few kids and caretakers who were not certain what kind of boy was Aiden. They would have given him the benefit of doubt, but the recent incident changed their views completely. Now Aiden was certainly a thief in their eyes. The sneers, curses and stares increased. He was ridiculed and made fun of when he had to clean the dining room alone, for next week. The Prank Gang had found their new and regular target. So, as Aiden cleaned one section of the dining hall and moved on to the next, they dirtied the section which was already cleaned. When Mrs. Cecilia inspected Aidens work, she forced him to redo it. This continued for the whole week.
After the punishment week was over, Aiden tried to stay even more hidden, but it was not always possible. Even if a kid lost his pencil, Aiden was the one to be blamed. The other kids often snatched away the food and deserts from his plate stating he had previously stolen something from them. Dean who had so easily escaped after stealing for the first time was now doing it regularly and always blamed it on Aiden. Aiden was often punished by Madam Cecilia in the form of skipping meals, doing the cleaning, making him kneel down for hours in the playground under the hot sun, standing up outside her office with raised hands etc. Aiden was rather grateful that she never hit or beat the kids as a punishment nor allowed any other kids to do so. His logbook was full of bad deeds so obviously he was not the most desired child to be adopted.
2 years went by at the orphanage and Aiden was now 10 years old. He had no friends at all, except for a stray cat which often came into the playground in front of his room through a small hole on the compound wall. He was now used to the gossips, ridicules, pranks and punishments. In between all these troubles, there was one good thing for him. He was very good at his academics and the topper in his class. He dedicated all his time to his studies and ignored everything else. In this way, he could make his living in the orphanage bearable.